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Town hall meetings and an insurance co-op: Denny Bowman

Patong Jet-Ski Insurance Co-op 'the Answer'

Monday, September 21, 2009
BEING mugged by three ladyboy katoeys was not a happy conclusion to a night out in Patong for Denny Bowman, but the American businessman retains some bright ideas about Phuket's future.

Here's his take on how to solve the jet-ski scam scandal: get the operators to form a collective to pay for their own insurance.

Regular insurance brands are reluctant to become involving in insuring the high-risk vehicles, which are meant for sport, not business.

''What could work well is this,'' Mr Bowman said today. ''If for each hour that a jet-ski is used every operator donates 50 baht to a pool of funds, there will soon be enough money to cover genuine accident insurance cases.

''The good point is that it also leaves the operators in a situation where they will only want to have to pay out on genuine accidents, because it's their money.''

Mr Bowman, deeply involved in several community groups and committed to improving the experience of US sailors on Phuket, became a ladyboy mugging victim himself in Patong in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Visiting US Navy crews are warned about jet-skis and ladyboys, but it may be that the alert needs to go out among Phuket residents as well.

With the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and other warships steaming towards the horizon today and due to drop anchor or moor on Phuket on Tuesday, debate about jet-skis is also reaching a climax.

On Wednesday, operators and local authorities will sit down together a third time to decide what to do next - and Mr Bowman's suggestion could well be a potential answer.

A special jet-ski pickup point pontoon moored well off Patong beach could also keep the dangerous vehicles away from swimmers.

''It's good to see this long-standing problem being addressed,'' said Mr Bowman, who also has a key role in the International Business Association of Phuket, a collection of about 80 mostly-expat businessmen and women.

''If Phuket is to prosper as a tourist destination, solutions need to be found to the jet-ski scams and other vital issues.''

And here comes Mr Bowman's second suggestion: regular town hall meetings, with everyone on Phuket invited.

In the US and other countries, the town hall meeting is an opportunity for large communities to get together to express their point of view - in much the same way as the jet-ski meetings have allowed everyone to have a say.

Having translations in two languages should prove no problem.

''There is a lot of concern about expats who live on the island, as well as local Thais,'' Mr Bowman said. ''Phuket is always going to have an international flavor from now on.

''Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all sit down together and listen to what everyone has to say, and make suggestions about solving problems?''

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Comments

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Sounds like a good idea sir!

Posted by Sean on September 21, 2009 18:27

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It sound good at first but it will not last long for some reasons:
- How you will be sure that all jet-ski owners will declare all rental fees to credit the fund? Uncontrollable, as many of them will try to hide some profit or will be scare by any control from the revenue department.
- Some jet-ski operators will try as much they can to declare a lot of damages in order to get free repairs at the expenses of other jet-ski operators; then fighting will start between them.
Perhaps the best way would be to set up a professional jet-ski cooperative which buy all jet-skis at once and will rehire that jet-skis to registered local jet-ski operators and that cooperative will be in charge to maintain all jet-skis.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on September 21, 2009 19:38

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1 vote here for a total ban

Posted by common_sense on September 21, 2009 23:07

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The town hall meetings would be a superb addition to a town whose residents (both Farang and non Local Thai) often have no voice in the political process. However they require maturity and ability to listen to complaint. I am unsure that it wouldn't fall into 'complaining farangs' v 'Thais in denial'.. Thailand is not a country where complaint to superiors or pointing out flaws and mistakes are culturally accepted.

If this problem could be overcome, it would be a superb way to directly highlight things which Thais who manage this island perhaps dont see as much of a problem (animal exploitation for photographs, the Bangla Rd touts issues, etc etc etc). The upside is it might give reasonable people a forum and allow residents to connect with those in power slightly, something that's very lacking currently.

Posted by LivinLOS on September 22, 2009 07:00

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Count me in on the vote for total ban.

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on September 22, 2009 07:04

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He doesn't get it. If the operators put aside 50 Baht, they are essentially paying for the repairs themselves. WHY?? It makes so much more sense to them to just go on ripping off tourists for extortionate amounts over supposed damage. They make MUCH more money that way.

Posted by John Tomlinson on September 22, 2009 13:17

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We are still discussing here a solution to a problem that is not possible by law: legally renting out jet skis to tourists.

There can only be a solution after this law has been changed or abrogated.

Only then will insurances be compelled to touch this issue -- or why would they ever pay for an accident?

Posted by jts-phuket on September 23, 2009 12:02

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The insurance idea superficially sounds like a winner, but it assumes that jetski operators will bother to tell scam victims that it's the insurance company which should pay out, not the tourist.

For comparison, consider that tuktuk rates are supposed to be capped-off / somewhat standardized, yet scamming for higher fares is routine.

In my opinion, both jetskis and tuktuks should be banned in order to rid Phuket of a crowd of mafiosas who have taken over those markets. Repeal the ban in 5 years, after the mafia infection has moved away/given up.

Posted by fark on September 29, 2009 09:31

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A straight insurance scheme won't work. But the co-op idea, putting all the responsibility on the jet-ski proprietors, just might. As for getting rid of jet-skis and tuk-tuks, the big issue is finding alternative jobs for those people. You can't just toss them out. That's not the Thai way, or the fair way. They would immediately blockade Provincial Hall, and that would be the end of that idea.

Posted by Angelfire on September 29, 2009 09:45

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It is also important to acknowledge that although this kind of scamming is widespread, it is not necessarily universal. There are almost certainly some honest jet-ski rental operators.

The co-op idea is interesting, but it presumes that the underlying issue is a lack of insurance coverage for fixing genuine damage.

In fact, there are two core issues:

1. thuggish demands to pay inflated repair estimates, even on genuine damage

2. fictionalizing damage

Since both of these practices are highly profitable, as long as they are permitted by the authorities, there is no incentive for the operators to cease them or to adopt other approaches.

However, since these practices are based on fraud and extortion, they should not be allowed.

It may be reality to acknowledge that this criminal behavior has become so institutionalized that merely enforcing the law is unlikely to work here. But one has to wonder about a society that is unwilling to tell its criminals that their demand to continue their criminality is unacceptable.

Posted by D on September 29, 2009 10:25


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